Tigers’ season ends against Cougars

By MARLAN JONES,

The Mendenhall Tigers’ football season came to an end after their 19-55 loss to Lawrence County in the first round of the playoffs.

The Tigers finished with a 5-6 record after putting together a five game win streak midway through the season. It was an expected down year for the team after graduating several starters. With this fact in mind the Tigers managed to over achieve. After a rocky start to the season, Tiger fans could see progression from week to week. Blow out losses transformed into close losses, and eventually into wins. The maturation process of this young team has been painful at times, but the Tigers will be better for it in the near future.

It was Senior Night for the second seeded Tigers last Friday and following the festivities it was game time. Lawrence County possessed the ball to start the game and broke for a big run on the second play from scrimmage. The Tiger defense forced a fumble on the next play and the Tigers took over. Offensively, Coach Chuckie Allen started the game with a complete tendency breaker by passing on the first play. It was a good call, but quarterback DK Jenkins slightly overthrew Keshun Collier on what would have been a big play. It was back to the regularly scheduled program, and Lawrence County was treated to a large serving of Reggie McLaurin, who ripped off chunk plays for three straight carries.

The offense stalled, however, near the Cougar 35 yard line. The Tigers had a turnover on downs, and Lawrence County’s offense trotted back onto the field. The next defensive series was headlined by Japo Magee, who was all over the field making tackles. The Cougars were facing 4th and short when linebacker Isaiah Drummond reacted well and stopped the running back short of the 1st down. That shifted momentum, and the Tiger offense stormed onto the field. Jenkins hit Collier with a pass over the middle good for 65 yards on a catch and run. The Tigers were on the 2 yard line when McLaurin was stuffed near the goal line. This was the most significant play of the game. The Tigers lost Big Bad Brushawn Garner to injury. Garner was off to a great start this game and was a big reason the Tigers were winning at the line of scrimmage.

A quarterback sneak saw the Tigers take a 6-0 lead following the missed extra point. The Cougars were patient and stuck to their game plan. They ran most of their offense from the wing-T formation, which relies on misdirection. The Cougars found a groove after Garner was unable to return to the game. Their running back broke for a 50 yard touchdown. They took a 7-6 lead. A miscue on a play action pass led to a fumble for the Tigers on their next possession. The turnover gave Lawrence County great field position and led to another touchdown. The Tigers were feeling the absence of Garner on both sides. Losing 6-14 the Tigers needed to respond. However the next offensive series saw the Tigers out of sync, and they were forced to punt.

Lawrence County went on a roll and began gashing the Tigers for consecutive big plays leading to another touchdown. A fumble on the next possession by the Tigers led to another Cougar touchdown. From this point the Cougars were getting anything they wanted on both sides of the ball. Lawrence County closed the first half with a 35-6 lead.

The second half was much of the same. Seniors Keshun Collier and Javaris Walker both scored touchdowns in the second half, but the game had already been decided.

Coach Chuckie Allen praised his players for the effort they put forth this season. He said he was especially proud that they never stopped fighting throughout the course of the year. He thanked his seniors for leaving their mark on the foundation of the Mendenhall Tiger football program, and said he is confident they will be successful young men in the future.

Allen said, “I’m proud of these guys and everything we were able to accomplish. We’ll take some time, continue to trust the process, and get back to work.”